The Laguna Beach Little League Major Division All-Star team had its run in the District 55 Tournament halted July 6 when it dropped a wild 15-14 game to Laguna Niguel at Chapparosa Park in Laguna Niguel. Laguna Beach finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.
The a game was much different from when they first met at the tournament's opener June 30, a 10-0 win by Laguna Niguel. In the rematch, Laguna Niguel jumped on Laguna Beach early and it appeared another blowout was imminent.
Three singles to open the game were followed by a grand slam. Laguna Niguel, which sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning and had its first seven batters either get a hit or walk, doubled its advantage by scoring four more runs in the second inning to bring the score to 8-0.
Laguna Beach clawed its way back, however. In the bottom of the second, Will Ross and Dean Nunis singled before Justin Holm drove in Ross with a single. With two out, Jack Wills walked to load the bases for John Langton, who did not let the Laguna Beach faithful down. Langton smashed a grand slam to make it an 8-5 game. Blake Burzell followed with a solo home run that drew Laguna Beach to within two.
Laguna Niguel responded to the challenge, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four more runs in the top of the third. That 12-6 advantage was short-lived as Laguna Beach came right back in the bottom half of the inning to score six runs and tie the score. During the comeback, Lance Stewart walked and Zack Washer, Dylan Smith, James Langton, Wills and Remy Mackel all singled, and John Langton hit a sacrifice fly.
Laguna Niguel threatened to regain the lead in the top of the fourth, but Laguna Beach Jack Loechner got out of a bases-loaded jam by getting a Laguna Niguel batter to fly out to James Langton for the third out. In the bottom of the inning, Laguna Beach was able to take its first lead of the game. Smith walked, Wills singled and John Langton doubled to put the locals in front, 14-12.
The score stayed that way until the top of the sixth, where Laguna Niguel turned a solo home run and a two-out RBI single to tie the score at 14. With runners at the corners, Laguna Niguel used a double steal to score the go-ahead run on a close play at the plate.
Laguna Beach had scored a pair of one-sided tournament victories over Lake Forest/Saddleback (10-0) and Rancho Niguel (10-1) before its second loss to Laguna Niguel.
"I've been coaching Little League for a long time and that was one of the best games I have been involved with," Laguna Beach Manager Eric Wills said of the 15-14 contest. "The boys never quit. They stayed positive, even when we were down, 8-0.
"This is a great bunch of players. I couldn't be more proud of their effort and resolve."